Have you ever imagined yourself living out in the American Wild West? Colt Express, the Spiel des Jahres winning board game from Asmodee, has been allowing us to play at being bandits for several years already, but now comes an app version which allows you to play while actually riding a train–or anywhere else you fancy for that matter.
Colt Express is a train heist game in which you play as bandits raiding a moving steam train through the American west. Scattered throughout the train’s length are rich passengers carrying loaded coin purses, shining gems, and the occasional strong box. Your goal is to move through the train gathering up as much moolah as you can, while avoiding the marshall whose job it is to guard everyone on board. Unfortunately for you, there are also other bandits trying to steal the same items and they will think nothing of punching, or even shooting you, in order to snatch the goodies for themselves. And to make things worse, all the bandits choose their cards in secret at the beginning of the round, meaning you will have no idea where they will be or if anyone will be pointing a gun at you when you move to take that pile of gems in the third carriage. This results in an appropriate feeling of bedlam as the cards are revealed and bandits race around the train, fighting and stealing.
The digital version of Colt Express is available for iOS, Android, and through the Steam store. Unlike the board game, the app version comes with an extensive storyline following the six characters from the original game through 30 chapters which you play through in single-player mode, although you can also choose to play in original “classic” mode against the computer. Progressing through story mode unlocks chapters in your chosen character’s comic book–the first pages are open to begin with and reveal a bit of their background. As the story progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to unlock each chapter, each one having different objectives that must be met in order to unlock it such as punching another character before anyone else. Throughout story mode you also get to play with special mechanics, my particular favorite being hitting the train’s brakes with a punch! It is worth noting that the app is rated age 9+ and the language between characters in the comics can get a little profane at times–they are bandits after all.
The app also comes with an online multiplayer option which includes an exclusive rules variant. One thing I found very disappointing was the lack of pass and play or local online game options. I had hoped to be able to play with my son during a long train ride but found we were unable to because of this missing function. It also means that my son, who isn’t yet allowed online games accounts, is limited to single player games against the AI. However, that didn’t seem to bother him too much, as for several weeks after installing the game on our iPad, I would suddenly noticing the sounds of twanging gunfire and clattering train wheels coming from the living room. My husband was also deeply enamored with the app, often playing it for long hours in the evenings. As of right now, neither of the two expansions available for the tabletop version of the game, Horses & Stagecoach and Marshal & Prisoners, are available for the app, but this could well change in the future.
The one thing I loved most about the Colt Express app was the graphic design. The look of the app is based on the original game art but does a great job of adding to it through animation. The train continually chugs along through desert scenery as you play, plunging into darkened tunnels during concealed “tunnel” rounds and experiencing various weather conditions and lighting. The characters run around performing their actions such as climbing up and down from the train’s roof, running along it, or punching another. Even the loading symbol is themed, rather that watching a circle spin around while you wait, you get to watch the chamber of a pistol fill with bullets then gradually empty. Combined with the sound effects, each round is like watching a snippet from an animated heist movie.
The digital version of Colt Express has taken already a well-themed game and added to it in spades with music, sound effects, animation, and a deeper, more engaging story. If you’re happy to play solo or online via a Days of Wonder account, then this is a beautiful app to add to your gaming collection. Sadly, if you’re looking for something to play together while traveling or just on the couch, then Colt Express probably isn’t going to be your most wanted choice.
GeekMom received a review code for review purposes.